Ghana is the second largest producer and exporter of cocoa in the world after Ivory Coast. Combined, these countries contribute to over 50% of the total cocoa produced in the world. Cocoa is critical to Ghana’s economy as it is the main cash crop and the chief agricultural export of the country. The Ghana Cocoa Board is constantly working towards improving cocoa yields by distributing free drought-resistant seedlings and promoting better farming practices, including hand pollination. Farmers understand the importance of growing cocoa beans and exporting them to the global market at high prices very well. In the last two years, cocoa production in Ghana has started to leave a bitter taste – in the form of deforestation, environmental degradation, and child labor violations . To top it all, there have been instances in which cocoa beans were contaminated with harmful chemicals due to illegal mining.
Over the last few years, the land in the Kunsu region of Ghana has been ravaged by the hunt for one of the country's most precious natural resources — gold. Stretches and acres of fertile farmland have been turned into barren wasteland littered with piles of soft clay contaminated with toxic chemicals and deep pits that remain dangerously uncovered. The chemicals have started leaching into nearby cocoa plantations through the soil and contaminated groundwater. Harmful chemicals which are a byproduct of the illegal mining, such as cyanide, are ending up in waterways in cocoa-growing areas. If the situation does not improve, it could lead to a ban on Ghana’s cocoa beans on the international market, with an adverse effect on the country’s economy. Europe in particular is taking aggressive steps to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, global biodiversity loss, and sourcing sustainable food products.
There is a legalisation pipeline that could soon make Ghana’s cocoa not good enough to be exported to many foreign countries. This will be a huge shock for Ghana which exports over 80% of its cocoa to the EU market. In 2021, Ghana exported cocoa worth USD 1.5 billion to the world of which 78% was exported to its top 10 markets. Within these top 10 markets, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy were the largest destinations for Ghana’s cocoa exports with a share of roughly 50% in the country’s exports. Currently, the government is concerned about the potential impact of the suspension of exports on both the budget and the cocoa sector as a whole. If regulations change, Ghana could be likely to lose out on a market of over USD 1 billion in the EU alone. In addition to the residues in cocoa, environmentalists and officials in the EU consider the current practice of intensive cultivation of chocolate trees in Ghana to be highly unsustainable and damaging the environment due to soil degradation and loss of biodiversity. Ghana is working towards solving these issues urgently in order to protect the country's cocoa exports. The EU is in general considering a complete ban on cocoa beans from non-adherent countries in a bid to cut back on deforestation which is largely fueling the climate change emergency. If Ghana wishes to continue exporting cocoa to the EU it should focus on producing its cocoa in a socially and environmentally sustainable way.